Games Of The Year: Until Dawn (PS4)
With 2015 coming to a close, it feels like a good time to reflect. It’s been a mixed year of sleeper hits and bitter disappointments. Micro-transactions became a hot topic, as did the continued growth of season passes. We’ve seen big name franchise depart from their creators and promising games cancelled. When all is said and done, looking back at the good games is what this is all about.
Xenoblade Chronicles X is not featured at any point, purely because it’s came out at the worst possible time…for me. It’s impossible to fit in such a large game, and playing it like it deserves, while I have so much ‘on’ at the moment.
For a game that next to no impact on me when ever it was show, Until Dawn was a surprise. The footage shown at past events never interested me much. At one point I even tweeted Until Dawn came off as nothing more than Youtuber/Twitch bait. The concept reeked of cringe, modern horror film (at least that’s how it initially looked) mixed with the whole interactive movie gimmick. David Cage’s last effort had left me scared enough to be cynical towards anything in the same vein.
The constant reminders that ‘the girl from Heroes’ was in it did not help matters. But then things changed, the marketing became silent…almost too silent. Until Dawn went from something of a minor focus for Sony, to pretty much silent release. Then it came out, and my curiosity got the better of me. Maybe it was because the lack of PS4 exclusives on the market at the time, maybe it was the £20 store credit I had. Either way, I picked up Until Dawn on release day.
Shockingly, Until Dawn was anything but the generic modern day play-along horror I assumed it to be. It’s not a smart story in the slightest, but it’s more aware. Following the same tone of a number of young horror directors, Until Dawn knew what it was. At times the game almost poked fun at it’s self, well aware of it’s stereotypical cast and scenario. This is what propelled Until Dawn into my affections.
From the top to the bottom, the cast fill all the roles you’d expect from the slasher genre. The jock, the joker, the nerd, the sexually timid one and the black guy. The script is fully aware of what’s going on, and what the player is led to expect. The initial hour or so is mostly there to fulfil the jump scare and pre-teen reunion guff modern horror contains. Introductions and motivations suggested, Until Dawn starts to hit it’s stride.
Trailers for Until Dawn played a huge part in it’s effectiveness. We, the consumer, were shown various videos and screenshots suggesting what the tone and plot would be. Turns out the whole thing was a ruse, and it worked wonderfully. To avoid spoilers, and doing a disservice to the game, I’ll avoiding revealing the true nature of Until Dawn. You should uncover that for yourself.
It may be silly, but it’s fine. Until Dawn never felt like it was taking itself too seriously. With various nods to staples of horror cinema, the game starts to feel like a labour of love. Eagle eyed horror fans will be able to pick up visible winks towards modern cult classics. Film posters for House of The Devil and The Inn Keepers make a cameo, a loving nod by writer Larry Fessenden to his understudies.
As a video game, it’s easy to play enjoyable romp. The much touted ‘Butterfly Effect’ may sound good in theory, but it’s not quite their in a piratical sense. Player choices do matter, with some causing the permanent death of a character, but these choices are more black and white than open ended. It doesn’t make the game any less enjoyable, but does result in the question of ‘what if’ popping up.
Until Dawn looks and sounds great. The cast of characters work towards their desired roles, pulling it off nicely. There’s even one or two of the characters that grow to be memorable, almost relatable. With it’s constant winks toward the player, and nudges toward horror fans, Until Dawn left a last impression. It may not be anything truly new or ground breaking, but the thrills and smirks it produced allowed it to blossom into a truly enjoyable experience.
The marketing team might of forgotten Until Dawn, but I did not. One of the most enjoyable video games on 2015, just turn off the motion controls.